Day in the Life of an IT Startup Intern – HackerTrail Interview

Technology is rising faster than anything, and they are shaping up the economy. We are witnessing the third industrial revolution – the digital revolution. And the main driver behind this revolution? The startups.

According to the renowned venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Paul Graham, a startup is a company designed for fast growth. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. To maintain growth, you’ll need to solve a big problem for many people. Therefore, many startups are either in technology sector or technology-enabled companies.

Photo: Teoh ZeTong


HackerTrail interviews Teoh Ze Tong, a graduating Marketing Major in the Business School at the National University of Singapore who has done more than a year’s worth of internships in both MNCs and tech startups.

Here is Ze Tong’s Story:

When I was working for my edtech company, I wore different hats each day. One day I could be writing for social media, another day I would be handling three million data points using MS Excel, and on another I would be at a strategy meeting giving my opinions on the decisions.

The things you will learn in an internship with a good startup will far exceed the structured, one-person-fits-one-task position in a large MNC. In my case, I was able to learn why they made certain strategic decisions like why they chose to retain a product when they are supposed to drop it. These are things not taught in MBAs and can only picked up in real-life. In order for a startup to succeed and progress quickly, many projects they take on often require a cross-functional team. There is great autonomy to work on things you perceive to be the best for the company under the guidance of a mentor.

Significance of start-ups in the 21st century

It took the Internet twelve years to gather its first billion users, but only one-third of that time to gather its third billion. The explosive growth of the Internet has led to the maturity of infrastructure and made it easier for startups to emerge.

When you intern at a startup, you put a time limit on the job commitment. Even if a company is failing, you are gaining real-world experience observing what mistakes is the company making because you would know what went wrong. Was it the team dynamics, office culture or a management issue?

NUS Enterprise Blk 71 Launch Pad Office: Singapore’s Startup Hotspot


Why now, why Singapore?

Singapore has one of the best ecosystems in the world for startups. We are right now, so conveniently located in the 10th best startup ecosystem in the world, as reported in the Startup Ecosystem Ranking 2015. This means in terms of funding, startup experience and readability of startups, Singapore is one of the hotspots for startups.

However, Singapore’s startup scene is still in its nascent stage. Only 21 startups made it to the series A funding round, which often represents maturity of a company poised for growth. So, by joining a startup now, you are at the forefront of witnessing the emergence of startups in Singapore.

Not a tech person? No problem.

Startups are not just about technology, they are a form of business unit. So you will definitely find a startup in a sector that interests you. Startups can be found across different industries and sectors: In education, PlayMoolah! teaches young kids the importance of money and savings; MotionMath engages with students in Mathematics through interesting games. In healthcare, MyDoc Singapore is streamlining the doctor’s communication process and reduce patient’s waiting time. In the real estate area, is enabling realtors and agents to list their properties easily on an online platform.

What To Expect As A Start Up Intern

When you start to work at a startup, it is not as crazy as portrayed the by the media where there will be posh, lavish product launch parties. But you still will most likely find yourself working with a bunch of intelligent people who are geeks, but fun to hang out with and driven. They show up at the office each day because they are motivated by the startup’s belief in making an impact on society. You will find people who left the high-paying jobs to work at the new, young company.

Ze Tong Against A Board Of Start Up Companies

Day-To-Day Office Culture

The office culture often revolves around having fun and celebrations. Because the lifespan of a startup is so short, and every day is another day of fire-fighting. People in the startups embrace fun and never fail to find a reason to celebrate. You don’t see that bureaucracy in big corporations, only flat hierarchies and standing tables. You work alongside your CEO and your manager, and are able to present your opinion on company decisions and be heard by the CEO directly.


Every undergraduate should intern at a startup at least once before graduation, for all the valuable experiences and novel insights as above. If you are an undergraduate with a hunger for more, the one thing that you should do now is to source for an internship at a startup.

Apply for an internship at a startup of your choice, one that you really feel for, and gain important life skills and experience that will benefit your career in a path less taken.

Cover Photo: Ze Tong in California, USA for NUS Overseas College (NOC) Internship Programme
This article does not represent HackerTrail in any way, and is entirely the opinions and insights of our interviewee Ze Tong.

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